Grant is at a ballgame tonight, so I’m spending a little quality time with my old friends Ben and Jerry, listening to Tom Petty on the stereo, and relaxing into the familiar, strangely comfortable depression that settles over me every fall like a great soft-feathered bird, dulling my senses as the cold clouds dull the sky.

You know that old Karen Carpenter song that goes, “Talking to myself and feeling old”? That’s how I feel this time of year: nothing wrong; just a vague sadness that feels oddly reassuring in its familiarity and predictability. I don’t remember the first time I felt this way. Was it the year I lost Mom? Was it earlier? Later? Did something trigger it, or did it just drift in one afternoon, spread its wings across my consciousness, and take up temporary residence?

I’d thought I might avoid it this year, but here it is, quietly announcing the arrival of autumn as I lie here on the couch, waiting for the game to end so Grant can come home and put his arms around me and drive away the shadows that creep into my thought when I have too much time on my hands.

— Sierra

Please release me

From my father’s album:

I Should Have Been There

An anxious moment
A panicked flight
‘Just young and foolish’
Don’t make it right
I should have been there

First steps to mama
First day of school
First pitch, first strikeout
I was a fool
I should have been there

First costume contest
First pony ride
First disappointment
First time she cried
I should have been there

Tough girl at fifteen
Left all alone
Grief-stricken, shattered
If I had known
I would have been there

The spitting image
Her mama’s face
My own eyes flashing
A moment’s grace

Long years of silence
Come to an end
This second chance is
A long-lost friend

From girl to woman
As time goes by
The years so fragile
Is this goodbye?

From child to mother
Daughter to wife
So time continues
This precious life

Wish I had been there….

His label is chomping at the bit to release this album. Valerie sent me the contract today. It’s a generous contract. I should probably sign it. I should probably play nice and share my father with his fans, who have no idea any of these recordings exist, and who will almost certainly crash Apple’s servers downloading them from iTunes the instant they are released.

I should, but I don’t know if I can. It’s bad enough when I find myself in some public place, minding my own business, and my father’s voice suddenly drifts out of some speaker embedded into the ceiling and takes me back to the day I lost my mother and had to choose between forgiveness and insanity. It’s taken me years to get used to that, to be able to hear it without falling apart in the middle of a restaurant or the dentist’s office or the lumberyard while strangers stare at me as if I’ve lost my mind.

Beautiful as it is, I don’t know if I can handle being blindsided by this gift from beyond the grave while I’m picking out avocados at the grocery store or waiting for the optometrist to update my contact prescription, y’know?

— Sierra

Tomorrow’s out of sight

Tonight was ridiculously slow, so at 9:30, Grant and I switched on the “NO VACANCY” sign and wandered down to Casa de Jesus.

Jesus had the karaoke machine out; as soon as we walked in, he began pestering me to sing. “My customers — they’re still talking about last time, mi’ija,” he said, referring to an impromptu performance I’d given in a moment of weakness last spring.

Grant was intrigued. “You can sing?” he asked, as if it were somehow shocking that a rock star’s daughter might have a passable set of pipes.

Jesus answered for me. “Like an angel.” He grinned at me. “Well, maybe not exactly an angel. Maybe a little more devil than angel. But beautiful.”

I rolled my eyes. I don’t sing in public if I can help it. Jesus thinks I have stage fright. In a way, he’s right: Being onstage terrifies me. But I’m not afraid I’ll sound bad. I’m afraid I won’t. And if word ever got out that Daddy’s little girl was singing pretty good karaoke in some hole-in-the-wall bar, my peaceful sanctuary could very easily turn into a three-ring circus.

Grant must have read my thoughts. “Come on, Sierra,” he said. “There’s nobody here but you and me and a handful of locals who don’t know who your dad is and wouldn’t give a damn if they did. Please let me hear you. Just once.”

Looking into his dark eyes, I caved.

The bar fell silent.

“Take the ribbon from my hair…” I began, and the look on Grant’s face sent a little shiver down the back of my neck. I remembered Dad telling me how a singer can control his audience with the right song at the right moment. I wondered whether I could control Grant with my voice the way Dad had controlled the women at his shows. It was a deliciously wicked thought.

Three songs later, Grant and I walked back to the Tumbleweed.

“Definitely more devil than angel,” he whispered, nuzzling my ear as I unlocked the lobby.

I looked at him for a long moment. I could hear my own heartbeat filling my ears with a deafening, high-pitched whish-whish. I thought of Dad, of his groupies, of the terrible magnificent crazy wild power a few notes could have.

You slut, I thought. How dare you? He trusts you.

I sighed.

“More angel than I’d like,” I said, and I kissed his cheek. “See you tomorrow.”

Lighting one candle

It may be better to light one candle than to curse the dark, but when you spend a week running a motel on batteries and breezes while the temperatures approach triple digits, you get kind of sick of lighting candles.

A violent storm blew through Coldwater last Sunday afternoon. The Tumbleweed didn’t have any serious damage, but the power was out all over Coldwater for an entire week after lightning hit the substation northeast of town and high winds downed half the power lines in Coldwater.

There were a lot of hassles, but it was pretty great to see the community come together in the face of a potential disaster. On Sunday evening, while Grant was smoking all the meat I had on hand to keep it from spoiling, Brother Jerry came by to see how we were doing. He and Grant got to talking, and by Monday morning, Brother Jerry, Grant, Bill, and all the deacons from church had set up grills and smokers at Veterans’ Park and organized a sort of communitywide barbecue/potluck to keep everybody’s perishables from going to waste.

Despite being thrown together on the fly, it turned out to be a really nice event, and everybody loved it so much that we’ve just about decided to do something similar as the centerpiece for our fall festival — maybe a chili cookoff or something.

Brother Jerry also got a couple of generators on Tuesday and set them up to create a cooling center at the church for anybody who needed to escape the heat. Here at the Tumbleweed, we handed out a lot of PBJ’s and bottled water, and a local Girl Scout troop came in and used my old treadle sewing machine to make enough cool ties for everybody in Coldwater to have one. Joey thought this was a brilliant idea and jumped right in, helping the girls measure out the little water-absorbent crystals to put in each tie.

The fire department got into the act Wednesday, deciding that this was a perfect time to flush the lines by opening a hydrant at Veterans’ Park so all the kids could come and play in the water.

The weather still sucked, and we were all still pretty glad when the power finally came back on last night, but it was good to see people pulling together and pooling their resources to keep each other as safe and comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

— Sierra


Our DNA tests arrived via FedEx this morning. I sent Grant a text as soon as they came in, and he came right over and took his so I could take them over to Santa Rosa and FedEx them back to the lab before the close of business today. With any kind of luck, we’ll know something by the end of next week.

Collecting the samples reminded me of the project we did in junior high, in which our biology teacher showed us how to collect cheek cells and examine them under a microscope. We had to draw a picture of what we saw on the slide.

It’s been 23 years since we did that. It doesn’t feel like that long.

Driving to Santa Rosa and back was an adventure. I think we’ve finally hit monsoon season for real. It was raining so hard that Grant insisted I take the XC70, which has 4WD, rather than the truck, which has high clearance but doesn’t handle well in adverse weather.

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be driving a Volvo through a monsoon in the middle of a desert to make sure I wasn’t accidentally dating a long-lost half-brother I never knew I had, I … well, come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t have been all that surprised. As Elbert Hubbard once said: “Life is just one damned thing after another.” Mine certainly is, anyway.

Thanks to the storm, I’ve got laundry drip-drying on makeshift clotheslines all over the lobby. The overhang looks like Havasu Falls, and Harvey and the cats are under the table, hiding from the thunder that rattles the windows every few minutes.

It’s a good afternoon for sleeping. I think I’ll curl up on the couch and take a nap after I finish cleaning up the lunch dishes.

— Sierra

A dull moment

Nothing happened today.

There were no disturbing revelations. No ghosts from anybody’s past. No mysterious shamanistic visitors. No aging hippie raconteurs. No relatives. No cartoon characters come to life. No socially conscious drag queens. No reggae singers. No stray animals. No job seekers. No pogo-stick photo ops. No pyrotechnics.


Absolutely nothing happened today.

Do I need to tell you how completely, utterly, blissfully OK I am with that?

— Sierra

Nighttime in Coldwater

A couple from Germany checked in just as Joey and I were finishing up dinner this evening. They hadn’t eaten yet, so I fixed them each a plate of capellini with olive oil, garlic, and grated Parmesan and a bowl of spinach salad with mushrooms, olives, and blue cheese, which they liked a lot. People keep telling me I ought to open a restaurant, but I don’t know how I’d pull that off. Maybe I’ll look into it after I finish backfilling Joey’s high-school education.

My only other traveler tonight was a woman from Pensacola who is on her way to see her daughter in Las Vegas. She checked in just after 9:30 and went straight to her room. Joey is playing Atari in the lobby, and Grant is in Santa Fe for some big-deal meeting until tomorrow afternoon, so Harvey (who is sleeping on the ground, with his nose on my foot) and I have had the evening all to ourselves.

Sitting in the quiet darkness of a Coldwater evening, you notice the soft sounds of the night: the electric hum of the pole light over at Freed’s Garage, the songs of crickets, the squeaking of the ornamental windmill over behind Unit Four, and the steady eek-eek of a metal speed-limit sign shivering in the ever-present New Mexico wind.

Nights like these make me wonder how I survived the chaos of St. Louis with my sanity intact. How did I manage without the whispers of the land to ground me?

— Sierra